being mean isn’t funny

I was appalled by two recent reports in the news of women treating other women appallingly. Women in very professional roles behaving very badly!

Mother ‘told to prove lactation’ at Frankfurt airport

A top police officer mocked a colleague’s ‘boob job

Yes the ‘mean girls’ are alive and well and now employed in roles with authority!


But surely this doesn’t happen in our university? Where we are all enlightened and know how to treat each other with respect?

Well sadly it can still happen.



Sometimes it is just a misunderstanding. We all come from such a wide range of backgrounds with differing social norms. What one person thinks is acceptable, another might find offensive. The same thing can have different significances for different people. It should come as no surprise that clashes occur and people are often surprised to find that someone is offended or even feels harassed by them.  So what can we do?


Sometimes it is good to stand back (literally, you could be invading their space and intimidating them!) and think about how you may be perceived by others.

Do you brush away people’s suggestions / opinions? This could make them feel undervalued and damage their self worth.

Do people avoid meeting your eyes? This could be subservient behaviour and show they fear you.

Do people go to someone else rather than you for advice? People could be avoiding you as they have learned from past experience that it will be a negative interaction.

Do people rarely speak up at your meetings and just agree with you?  Is resistance futile!

Do you ask people to do things that aren’t their job because you can e.g. fetch drinks? This can be demeaning.

Do you insult someone then laugh afterwards as if it was a joke?  If the victim tries to complain, they are then accused of not having a sense of humour – a double whammy of undermining their self worth!

If you answer yes to any of these then you may not be in line for winning the Mr/Miss Congeniality prize this year


The University of Sheffield is committed to promoting the highest standards of behaviour to maintain a working, learning and social environment where everyone is treated fairly and with respect” and staff can find out more information here and students here.

Bullying is a gradual wearing down process that makes individuals feel small and inadequate” so I’m asking everyone to make it a nicer environment for everyone to work in, by avoiding unknowingly making someone else’s life hell. #researchwell

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